You will need to work with medical specialists to determine what is causing your vision problems, whether or not they are permanent, and what tools or treatments will help you the most. There are actions you can take to cope with the changes you’re experiencing. Adjusting to vision loss is difficult, and it will take a lot of time, hard work and patience. There are some coping methods and tools available to help you find a new way of completing daily activities.
If you are experiencing partial vision loss :
- Practice turning your head and compensating for the fields where you don’t have sight
- Mark “on” and “off” switches of items that are used often (like the TV and kitchen appliances) with bright pieces of tape so you can tell when equipment is on or off.
- Make fonts bigger or get large-print books
- Use brightly coloured writing instruments
- Take breaks often from activities that rely on eyesight. This is especially important when reading, watching television, or using an electronic device. One great way to keep on top of this is to follow the 20/20/20 rule. Look up every 20 minutes and focus on something at least 20 feet away for at least 20 seconds.
- Use a magnifying glass
- Use contrast settings to make an object stand out from the background. For example, use a dark-colored plate for light food, or a light cutting board for prepping dark food.
- Keep surfaces uncluttered to avoid too much visual input. Keep items you use together in the same area. For example, keep keys and wallets together so you don’t have to look in multiple places.
For complete vision loss:
- Use devices that have audible features. This includes timers, clicks, appliances, screen-readers, and mobile apps.
There are some additional ways to make activities of daily living (ADLs) easier to complete if you're experiencing changes in vision.
- Learn to use Braille
Braille is a system of raised dots that people can use to read with their fingers. This enables people with vision loss to read and work and learn. It can take awhile to learn, but is an essential skill that is incredibly beneficial.
- Use adaptive technology
Technology today has a lot of features that make it accessible to people with vision problems. This includes:
- Mobile phones and tablets that have voiceover features
- Described video features for television and film
- Braille displays and notetakers
- Computers with magnification and screen readers
- Digital applications designed specifically for the visually impaired
- Arrange your environment
Where you live is where you spend most of your time, and you need to make sure it is set up so you can complete as many daily activities as possible as independently as possible. This includes when you’re experiencing vision problems. While the way you complete tasks may change, your home environment can be altered to make it as easy as possible for you. Some alterations include moving floor obstructions like mats, adding braille labels to objects, and keeping everything in the same place.
An occupational therapist can help you set up your environment for your needs. Specialists can help you be teaching you how to safely complete tasks like cooking meals and cleaning.
- Use guiding tools for moving
Many people with vision problems use tools and equipment to help them with walking and travelling. This includes:
- Guiding canes. This is the most common tool. You will have to be taught how to use it properly
- Guide dogs. While guide dogs are incredibly helpful for navigating and provide companionship, they may not be suitable for everyone experiencing vision loss. You will need to consult with a specialist. Canadian Guide Dogs for the Bling has more information on guide dogs in Canada. You can also check out the CNIB guide dogs program and see if it is the right fit for you.
CNIB has more information on living with blindness that can be helpful in learning to cope with these changes.
- Ask for appropriate online accessibility features
While many organizations are working hard to make sure they are accessible for people with visual deficits, you may come across a website or page that does not have appropriate options for you. If this happens, you have the right to reach out to the company, organization or person and ask for appropriate accessibility options.
Disclaimer: There is no shortage of web-based online medical diagnostic tools, self-help or support groups, or sites that make unsubstantiated claims around diagnosis, treatment and recovery. Please note these sources may not be evidence-based, regulated or moderated properly and it is encouraged individuals seek advice and recommendations regarding diagnosis, treatment and symptom management from a regulated healthcare professional such as a physician or nurse practitioner. Individuals should be cautioned about sites that make any of the following statements or claims that:
- The product or service promises a quick fix
- Sound too good to be true
- Are dramatic or sweeping and are not supported by reputable medical and scientific organizations.
- Use of terminology such as “research is currently underway” or “preliminary research results” which indicate there is no current research.
- The results or recommendations of product or treatment are based on a single or small number of case studies and has not been peer-reviewed by external experts
- Use of testimonials from celebrities or previous clients/patients that are anecdotal and not evidence-based
Always proceed with caution and with the advice of your medical team.